M29 — July 2012 — Stung by a Plant
Intro: Sunshine and soda garnished with a lime are two delights of summer. But for some people that delicious combo can cause a reaction on your skin you might mistake for bruises or poison ivy. It’s called a phototoxic reaction, and it happens when you touch certain plants and are then exposed to sunlight. Vivien Williams has the story from Mayo Clinic.
“I’ve always grown up around water and I love to swim.”
But last year during spring break, life guard Ali Behrens developed a strange, long red mark on her leg after a dip in the ocean.
“Then it started to get really red and blistered.”
She thought that maybe it was a jelly fish sting. Mayo Clinic doctor Dawn Davis told Ali, yes it was a sting. But from a plant and the sun, not a jelly fish.
“I was kind of disappointed because a jelly fish sounds cooler.”
“There are certain plants and fruits in nature such as dill, buttercup, bergamot, musk ambrette, parsley, parsnip and citrus fruits, especially lime, that when these chemicals that they contain hit your skin and then it's exposed to ultraviolet light, a chemical reaction occurs and you can either develop a dermatitis, which is called phytophotodermatitis, plant-light-induced eczema, or you can develop a phototoxic dermatitis, meaning plant sunburn dermatitis.”
Typical scenarios would be: when you brush up against certain plants on a hike, or when you squeeze a lime into a drink. You get the juice on your hands, touch your arm and when the sun hits that spot, the dermatitis appears in the shape of drips or even hand prints.
“A lot of people think that it’s poison ivy with the lines and the streaks, but it’s indeed not. It’s a phytophotodermatitis.”
Treatment includes topical ointment and staying out of the sun.
“It’s right here on my leg.”
Ali says her reaction was a bit painful, but over time, it’s fading away.
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
Again, Dr. Davis says the skin reactions often look like poison ivy or handprints. And some people think those marks are the result of physical abuse. Dr. Davis says some sleuthing about what transpired can help figure out whether it’s bruising or a phototoxic reaction.
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